Inhofe Introduces Farm Truck Weight Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) today re-introduced common sense bipartisan legislation with Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to address a problem faced by a number of farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma and around the country when they drive their goods across state lines. Currently, just by driving between two states that do not have a reciprocity agreement for farm truck weights, like Oklahoma and Kansas, these farmers are exceeding an unnecessarily low federal weight definition for commercial motor vehicles and are being ticketed and fined.  

“Today, due to an arbitrary federal law, many Oklahoma farmers are being ticketed when they drive their goods across state lines,” Senator Inhofe said. “Even though these farmers’ trucks are within the weight limits set by their home states and the states to which they are traveling, they are triggering an arbitrary federal weight regulation when they cross state lines in their farm vehicles. As a result, they are being ticketed and generally inconvenienced. 

This issue has caused quite a stir in Oklahoma, and many are proposing solutions to address the problem. The president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Mike Spradling, discussed a number of options when he testified last year on this issue in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. I met recently with members of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission who also expressed ideas on how best to resolve this problem. 

“I first introduced this legislation on July 16th of last year, and today I am reintroducing this bill, which offers a solution that is both common-sense and achievable.  I want to first thank American Farmers and Ranchers based in Oklahoma, and the American and Oklahoma Farm Bureaus for making this legislation from the 110th Congress a priority issue, and I appreciate their support as we go forward on this issue that is of importance to so many American farmers.” 

Support for Senator Inhofe’s legislation: 

Terry Detrick, President and CEO of American Farmers & Ranchers (AFR), said today that AFR applauds Senator Inhofe in his efforts to lift undue restrictions on agricultural producers taking their crops and livestock to market. "The new legislation is a step in the right direction in allowing farmers and ranchers to transport their commodities without unreasonable regulations that have no impact on roadway safety,” Detrick said. “While there is still work to be done in regard to the problems farmers and ranchers face in transporting their commodities, we applaud Senator Inhofe in recognizing the problem and working to find a solution for everyone involved. Currently the rules and regulations that farmers and ranchers must follow are designed for over the road haulers that travel all across the country, we are only talking about an exemption for farmers and ranchers that drive very few miles to get their products to the first point of sale and to the best market within their area.” 

Mike Spradling, President of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, praised the legislation, saying, “The Oklahoma Farm Bureau (OFB) commends you for introducing legislation to relieve American farmers and ranchers from undue burdens and regulations when they transport their crops or livestock across lines.  Farmers and ranchers strive to ensure their motor vehicles are in a safe and proper operating condition and that they are used in a careful and responsible manner.  OFB believes that farmers hauling their own products in their own vehicles, many in close proximity to their property, should not be subject to the same regulations intended to govern full-time commercial truck drivers… Under current regulation, crossing state lines changes the classification from intrastate carrier to interstate carrier, triggering commercial requirements – even if the truck has traveled only a short distance and both states recognize the 26,001 pound eexemption.  Your bill will allow farmers and ranchers to drive between those states without triggering the federal CMV definition of 10,001 pounds for interstate commerce. Thank you for authoring this legislation.” To read the letter, click here. 

Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said, “… On behalf of Farm Bureau members across the nation, I thank you for your continued commitment to ending these burdensome and costly regulations. The current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations were designed for commercial for-hire truckers.  Unfortunately, farmers and ranchers hauling their own grain, beef or other agricultural commodities are subject to these regulations, even though they may only be driving short distances.  Your legislation would relieve farmers and ranchers from these costly and needless regulations.” To read the letter, click here. 

Tim Bartram, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association said, “The Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association is thankful for the introduction of Sen. Inhofe’s bill to correct unrealistic regulations on trucks used by Oklahoma wheat farmers to help produce the world safest and most reliable food supply. These changes will help put common sense into trucking regulations while still maintaining safe travel on the nation’s roads.” 
 
Senator Inhofe’s Full Remarks: Mr. President, today I rise to introduce S. 639, a bill that addresses a problem faced by a number of farmers in my state of Oklahoma and around the country when they drive their goods across state lines. Even though these farmers’ trucks are within the weight limits set by their home states and the states to which they are traveling, they are triggering an arbitrary federal weight regulation when they cross state lines in their farm vehicles. As a result, they are being ticketed and generally inconvenienced. This issue has caused quite a stir in Oklahoma, and many are proposing solutions to address the problem. The president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Mike Spradling, discussed a number of options when he testified last year on this issue in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. I met recently with members of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission who also expressed ideas on how best to resolve this problem. I first introduced this legislation on July 16th of last year, and today I am reintroducing this bill, which offers a solution that is both common-sense and achievable.  I want to first thank American Farmers and Ranchers based in Oklahoma, and the American and Oklahoma Farm Bureaus for making this legislation from the 110th Congress a priority issue, and I appreciate their support as we go forward on this issue that is of importance to so many American farmers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration defines a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) as a vehicle which has a gross vehicle weight rating or a gross combination weight rating of at least 10,001 pounds. However, states are allowed to exempt vehicles up to 26,001 pounds from the CMV determination if they are engaged solely in intrastate commerce. Farmers can cross state lines within 150 miles of their farms if the states have a reciprocity agreement. However, not all states have these agreements.  Once a farmer drives his truck into a state with which his home state does not have a reciprocity agreement, the 10,001 pound definition for a commercial motor vehicle kicks in and the farmer is then responsible for all of the requirements of an operator of a commercial motor carrier. This is the case even if the states from which and to which the farmer is traveling each have weight exemptions for farm vehicles. To illustrate this situation, consider the following example. An Oklahoma farmer lives ten miles from the Kansas border. He loads up his trailer with grain in order to transport his crop to the nearest grain elevator, which is across the state border in Kansas. Both Oklahoma and Kansas allow trucks to weigh up to 26,001 pounds for intrastate commerce. However, the states do not have a reciprocity agreement. This farmer’s truck weighs 24,000 pounds. Therefore, as long as he complies with the laws concerning farm vehicles in the State of Oklahoma, he is able to drive within the state without meeting all of the federal requirements of a commercial motor carrier.  Likewise, if he lived in Kansas, he would be able to drive within the state without meeting federal CMV requirements. Unfortunately, as soon as this farmer drives across the border from Oklahoma into Kansas – and becomes subject to the federal laws for interstate commerce – his truck is considered a commercial motor vehicle because it weighs more than 10,001 pounds. When a truck is considered a commercial motor vehicle, the driver must comply with the federal requirements of a professional truck driver. These requirements include possessing a commercial driver’s license and medical examination certificate, having Department of Transportation markings on the vehicle, documenting hours of service, and becoming subject to controlled substance and alcohol testing. While these requirements serve important purposes for long-haul truck drivers, they are unnecessary for farmers who carry these loads only a few times a year.  After hearing from many farmers in Oklahoma who are frustrated by this seemingly illogical federal regulation, today I am proposing legislation to make it so that the federal commercial motor vehicle definition of 10,001 pounds does not automatically apply when a farm vehicle crosses state lines. Instead, my bill states that the weight definition for a commercial motor vehicle for agricultural purposes is the weight as defined by the state in which the vehicle is being operated. Currently, thirty-two states define a commercial motor vehicle as weighing 26,001 pounds or more. Under my bill, farmers will be able to drive between those states, like Oklahoma and Kansas, without triggering the federal CMV definition of 10,001 pounds for interstate commerce and getting ticketed for a weight violation. The second section of my bill states that the Department of Transportation cannot withhold grant money from states that choose to raise their weight limits above 10,001 pounds up to 26,001 pounds. If my bill passes, states with lower weight definitions may desire to increase them. This section will erase the concern that they may lose grant funding from DOT. This bill is an effort to relieve American farmers from undue burdens and regulations when they transport their crops or livestock from one place to another. I want to thank Senator Merkley and Senator Coburn for cosponsoring this important legislation here with me today, and I look forward to working with all my colleagues in the Senate and House to provide relief to farmers on this critical issue.  

###